Sitting at my dining room table with my pile of cookbooks, I make the menu for the coming week. My mind is racing, there's work, deadlines, tonight's dinner, swim class, gym class, the bank, the store... It's already 6 o'clock, where did this day go?
Then I grab a cookbook from the pile, Art of the Slow Cooker, and the tagline reads: "Good things come to those who wait." Oh, crap. That's right, I've got to slow down, focus and enjoy the present task, the rest will get done. Somehow.
Time, time, time. Such a precious commodity. Seems to become even more precious (and rare!) when you have children. Life can be such a juggling act sometimes, a whirlwind, a whoosh. It's scary, gives me vertigo. I have to pull on my own reins and stop to enjoy the present moment. A few seconds cheek to cheek with my son. Looking at fesh produce at the farmer's market. Enjoying a meal with friends and family. Notice the beauty of a blue sky. Of a white sky. November is upon us, Thanksgiving around the corner, so it's pretty a good time to be particularly aware of things we're grateful for. The big, and the little things.
In these moments of stress and struggling to get everything done, time somehow becomes the enemy. How crazy is that? Time is our life. Time is our present. Time is all we've got. When we're out of time, well... that's it. Time should never be the enemy. It is our most precious possession. So in these whooshy whirlwind-of-life moments, I try to remember that, in a screeching-tire-smell-of-rubber brain moment. And I look down at what's in front of me: oh yeah. Crock pot recipes.
I discovered the time-saving wonders of the crock pot a few years ago. I talked about how to get organized for a sit down meal in my Anatomy of a French four-course family meal, and the crock pot sure makes that much easier. Spend 20 minutes early in the day for a little prep, and when dinner time comes, serve and enjoy! You only have the vegetable starter to think about, like this one. Or this one.
This is my favorite crock pot recipes (this crock pot recipe book, by the way, is worth checking out, so many wonderful, easy yet fine cuisine recipes in it). This dish is so exotic tasting and delicious, makes great use of these spices you may have lying around in your cupboard. The meat is so tender, the sauce so "parfumée", as the French would say, literally "perfumed", meaning complex with many flavors and scents to it. Yet there really isn't anything complicated about the recipe. It's one of those dishes that gets a lot of "wows", yet I never feel I should get much credit given the simplicity of it. Somehow the simple process of marrying these ingredients with time brings a wonderfully complex chemistry of flavors in the plate.
Oxtails Braised in Coconut Milk, with coconut Jasmine riceInspired from Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss
Ages for babies: I would say 12 months and above, because of the myriad of spices and ingredients. The meat is very very tender and very easy to gum down for a baby with few teeth.
Prep time: 20 Min (Given the long list of ingredients, I recommend prepping and measuring all the ingredients first)
Cook time in crock pot: 4-5 hours on high, 8-10 hrs on low
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp of kosher salt or fleur de sel
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground allspice
6 large pieces of oxtails (12 oz each) - the author of the book says you could use veal or beef shanks if you couldn't find oxtails, but I have not tried it.
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp of finely chopped ginger root
1 cup beef broth
3/4 cup fat free or light coconut milk
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained of their liquid as much as possible
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
Some fresh cilantro for garnish
For the coconut rice:
2 cups of Jasmine rice
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/3 cup water
Mix the flour, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and allspice in a medium mixing bowl. Roll the oxtails in the spiced flour mixture until they are coated on all sides. Remove and pat off excess spiced flour (reserving that spiced flour). Add the turmeric to the flour mixture and set aside.
In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. Brown the oxtails on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to your crock pot.
Add the onion and carrots to the skillet and sauté over medium heat until brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds, stirring often. Add the reserved spiced flour mixture, and stir to coat the vegetables. Stir in the broth, coconut milk and tomato, and boil, stirring often, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Tuck the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and bay leaves around the pieces of oxtail, and pour the sauce over the meat in the crock pot. Cover and cook for about 4-5 hours on high (or 8-10 hours on low).
About 20 Min before dinner, cook the rice with the proportions of water and coconut milk indicated above.
Serve some rice on a plate, place the oxtail on top and pour some sauce and carrots over the meat. Enjoy!